The Official Agreement To Dissolve The USSR Is Missing

By Heather Ramsey on Tuesday, May 12, 2015
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“First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” —Vladimir Putin, 2005

In A Nutshell

The Belavezha Accords, the agreement that officially dissolved the Soviet Union in 1991, is missing. The loss wasn’t discovered until Stanislav Shushkevich, former head of Belarus, requested to see the document as preparation to write his memoirs. Shushkevich believes the document was probably stolen by someone who sold it to a collector. Although it hasn’t been tested in court, it’s believed that existing notarized copies of the agreement have the same power as the original to enforce the breakup.

The Whole Bushel

After Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985, he began to implement changes in the USSR that seemed revolutionary, yet no one expected the breakup of the Soviet Union. First, Gorbachev introduced glasnost, meaning “political openness,” that allowed citizens and newspapers to publicly criticize the government. Political prisoners were also freed. Next, Gorbachev set about restructuring the economy with reforms called “perestroika.” This privatized a lot of economic activity that had previously been run by the state. Individuals could now own companies and workers could strike.

It seemed like the Soviet Union was making strides toward democracy. But it didn’t really work. Perestroika destroyed the Soviet economic state, but market reforms were slow to rebuild the economy. Goods became scarce and people became frustrated. “The old system collapsed before the new one had time to begin working,” explained Gorbachev.

Together with his policy of noninterference toward the Soviet satellites, the stage was set for independence movements all around. In the early 1990s, the Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia were the first to break away from the USSR. Next, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was formed when the Republic of Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine left the USSR. Then, except for Georgia (which declared independence two years later), the other republics broke away within weeks. On December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union formally ceased to exist.

After such a monumental occurrence, you’d think all parties involved would keep the original paperwork somewhere safe. However, the Belavezha Accords, the agreement that officially dissolved the Soviet Union and established the CIS in 1991, is missing. The loss wasn’t discovered until Stanislav Shushkevich, former head of Belarus, requested to see the document in 2013 as preparation to write his memoirs. Shushkevich believes it was probably stolen by someone who sold it for a lot of money to a collector.

On December 8, 1991, Shushkevich had secretly met with Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk and Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Belarus to sign the Belavezha Accords. According to the agreement, there were supposed to be three originals in the languages of Belarusian, Ukrainian, and Russian. But for some unexplained reason, each of the leaders was only given a certified copy of the agreement in Russian. The only original document, which is now missing, was placed in the archives of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.

Pyotr Kravchenko, the foreign minister of Belarus in 1991, was given the original of the agreement for safekeeping. Although he’s bragged about having all the drafts of the agreement, he refused to comment when it went missing. “We don’t know where the original is,” said Vasily Ostreiko, the head of the archive department of the CIS, headquartered in Minsk, the Belarusian capital. “We have a copy of that document. It’s certified in line with international standards, but it’s still a copy.” Although it hasn’t been tested in court, it’s believed that existing notarized copies of the agreement have the same power as the original to enforce the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Show Me The Proof

Photo via Wikipedia
RT: Document declaring Soviet Union’s breakup ‘missing’ from archives
Associated Press: Back in the USSR? Key Soviet document is missing
History: Fall of the Soviet Union

  • Clyde Barrow

    In Soviet Russia…documents disappear just like political dissidents!

  • inconspicuous detective

    fancy that. soviet documents are conveniently missing.

  • Hillyard

    Putin will probably use this as an excuse to reform the USSR. Which he is apparently trying to do now.

    • Clyde Barrow

      I really can’t say I blame him. It’s his for the taking, yet it’s just more burden. Quite the quandary!

  • lonelydisco

    “Next, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was formed when the Republic of Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine left the USSR.”

    The only time Putin will ever say “CIS-scum”.